I had the chance to see Professor Mitchell live, whose presentation on Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to Abu Ghraib evoked interesting questions. His presentation was centered around his forthcoming book, which -as the title shows- deals the symbolism and pictorial representation of, for instance, 9/11.
Mitchell proposed a question to historians: “How could one believe that a coincidence is a mere coincidence?” How could historians identify certain historical moments as not coincidences? This provocative question was followed by a photo of a New York Times article (around the time of its completion) that called our attention that planes might fly so low they can crash into the building.
Mitchell argued: “As if the Twin Towers were fated to be destroyed (sic) .” But – as I got to acknowledge – this was barely a new phenomena. As Zizek points out, before 9/11, there were certain fantasies (that NYTimes article, a CD-cover, films, like Independence Day, Escape from New York) that were on the public’s mind. But also, before the Titanic catastrophe, we can observe the same mechanism. Zizek must have thought about the book by 1898, called Futility, in which an ocean liner called Titan(!) hit an iceberg, which caused its end. But my observation is: this is exactly the opposite of 9/11: The Titanic emerged from a fantasy, whereas to 9/11 a fantasy was attached.
Anyhow, W.J.T Mitchell’s book can be ordered here. (Hungarian version)